|Students work on their laptops on the first day of school at the 'School of the Future' in Philadelphia, September 7, 2006.
Philadelphia on Thursday opened a public high school where students work on wireless laptops, teachers eschew traditional subjects for real-world topics and parents can track their child's work on the Internet.
Called "The School of the Future" and created with help from software giant Microsoft, it is believed to be the first in the world to combine innovative teaching methods with the latest technology.
The school, which cost theschool district$63 million to build, is free and has no entrance exams. The 170 students in the inaugural ninth-grade class were selected by lottery from 1,500 applicants.
Three-quarters of the students come from the surrounding West Philadelphia neighborhood; 95 percent of the students are black, and about 85 percent come fromlow-income households, the school district said.
Philadelphia School District Chief Executive Paul Vallas told students they would be scrutinized by other schools around the world.
"You have become instant role models," Vallas said. "People are going to be ... watching you."
Student still sit in classrooms, but lessons rely heavily on information found on the Internet. Students will be allowed to learn at their own pace. Homework is done on computer and sent to the teacher for grading and parents can access the school's network to read teacher feedback on their child's progress.
Traditional education is obsolete and fails to teach students the skills of problem-solving, critical thinking and effective communication, which they need to succeed in the 21st century, principal Shirley Grover said in an interview.
David Terry, 14, said he was hoping to "turn over a new leaf" after discipline problems in his previous school left him with an "average to really bad" academic record.
"This is a great opportunity for me," he said. "In other schools, I would not get this kind of education."